SCRANTON- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Robert Semenza, Jr., age 47, of Old Forge, Pennsylvania, was charged in a criminal information with federal program bribery.
According to Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the information alleges that Semenza, the President of the Old Forge Borough Council, solicited, demanded, and accepted cash payments in exchange for performing and promising to perform official acts, between January 2019 and February 2020. In particular, the official acts were in connection with a civil litigation filed by Old Forge Borough against a local business owner, in a dispute over Old Forge zoning ordinances. Semenza allegedly agreed, in exchange for cash payments, to vote on the local business owner’s behalf in matters before the Old Forge Borough Council, to advocate on behalf of the local business owner with the Old Forge Borough Council, the Old Forge Borough Solicitor, and Old Forge zoning officials, and to propose a favorable resolution for the civil litigation to the Old Forge Borough Council and Solicitor, among other things.
“When public officials use their office to line their pockets rather than serve the public it not only constitutes a serious crime but also breeds cynicism and undermines the electorate’s faith in government,” stated Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler. “Our office and the FBI’s public corruption task force are committed to rooting out all public corruption in the Middle District and will commit all necessary resources to that task.”
The case was investigated by the Scranton Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Public Corruption Task Force, which consists of members of the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and federal agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo is prosecuting the case.
Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is 10 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.
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Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Middle District of Pennsylvania